‘The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.’
George Bernard Shaw
Communication is simple, conceptually. It is the practice that can be challenging, especially when we are pressured for time.
In recent years, in our drive for efficiency in all aspects of business including communication, we have neglected effectiveness. This has led to frustration, missed deadlines, rework, tedious meetings ….the list continues!
We often send an email because it’s quicker and because we can send it at a time convenient to ourselves. But
- What if the person doesn’t read it, and you only find out when the deadline is missed?
- What if they misunderstand it? They do what they believe you asked for, you feel frustrated with the result, they feel annoyed that you are impossible to please!
- What if they read it with an unintended tone and are therefore annoyed because they believe you have been completely unreasonable?
Communication is a Cycle
Communication is a cycle, so in fact nothing has been communicated until you have received feedback from the receiver, indicating they have understood the message as you intended it.
Frequently there is no reply to an email request until the task has been completed.
If the message is understood correctly and acted on correctly, the task arrives complete and correct. Both parties are satisfied. However, if the message was not completely understood and the task arrives incomplete or incorrect, both parties feel dissatisfied, perhaps even frustrated or angry.
Apart from the level of dissatisfaction or frustration, there is now rework to be done and therefore time wasted. This also assumes that the person is actually happy to complete the task again; and, given that they consider they completed it correctly the first time, they may not be very enthusiastic about completing it a second time.
The Real Problem with Email
When we write an email, the message is usually followed immediately by our signature. There is no attempt to check that the message has been understood, or accepted or committed to. No wonder we are frequently disappointed by our poor communication – which, incidentally, we often prefer to call someone else’s lack of skill or even lack of common sense.
When we do attempt the check, via email, that the message has been understood as we intended, we tend to write our instructions or message and then ask closed questions or make statements unlikely to elicit a response. We make statements like “please call or email if you have any questions”. When we don’t receive any questions, we assume that the message has been correctly understood and that the task has been committed to.
However, research and our own anecdotal experiences tell us that people often don’t ask questions, even when they are unsure about some aspects of the task and have questions.
Often people don’t want to appear incompetent or lacking in confidence so they don’t ask; rather, they hope that their assumptions will be right or that they will be able to figure it out as they progress with the task.
Effective Communication Essential for Business Growth
Yes, emails are effective for organising meeting times and locations, and to follow-up a conversation or set of agreed actions. They are not effective and are often responsible for ‘communillusion’ when they are used to have a discussion or to give feedback.
Effectiveness is about ‘doing it right, efficiency is about ‘doing it fast’. Clearly there is no point in doing the wrong thing fast! We must ensure that our communication is effective before we are concerned with its efficiency.
When your communication focuses on effectiveness, on the receiver and on checking that they have understood the message as you intended, then you enjoy much success in your communication.
This effective communication needs to occur with all internal customers and with all clients, not just the ‘nice’ people or the ones you relate to easily. The ability to communicate with ‘difficult’ people, with those who have very different personalities and styles to our own, is probably the greatest challenge of being an excellent communicator.
Being a consistently excellent communicator requires technique, energy and practice. It may be easy in concept, but it is certainly not necessarily easy in practice. However, this focus will be well rewarded, because greater success in communication equates to greater success in business, leading to higher profits and business growth.
To rapidly upskill your staff and create effective and efficient communicators in your business, give World Class Teams a call today on 1300 085 248 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.